Road infrastructure in India

Road infrastructure in India

Context: Here, we will understand the road infrastructure in India. Some data will be crucial for your mains exams. Thorough discussion of the topic was done in recent edition of Yojana magazine.

Introduction:
• Road infrastructure is important driver of economic growth and social development in India. Increase of total road-length and improvement of road-quality are the two pillars of improved road infrastructure.
• India now has the second-longest road length in the world after USA.
• As of December 31, 2022, India's road network was over 63.73 lakh kilometers.
• In the last nine years, the increase in four-lane national highways has risen about two times. In 2013-14, the length of four-lane national highways was 18,371 km, which has increased to 44,654 km in the last nine years.

What are the various steps taken for improvement of Road infrastructure in India?
• Until 1991, road construction was connected with direct employment. Post liberalization, there has been increased focus on use of capital-intensive high tech road making equipments which has enhanced road construction capability in India.
• After the creation of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in 1995 there has been focused approach towards national highway construction. Prior to that states were responsible for National highway development with funding from centre.
• In addition to NHAI, new organizations have been created for better focus on road development. National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) was incorporated in 2014, to carry out road development projects in the border areas. National Highways Logistics Management Limited (NHLML) was set up in 2020 for the first/last mile port connectivity projects.
• Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana has been one of the most successful projects in India. The success of PMGSY has also encouraged projects like the Mukhya Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (MMGSY) in many states. Rural roads today constitute over 70% of road infrastructure in the country.
• Initiatives such as Public-private partnership (PPP) models and Viability Gap Funding have ensured that financial risks undertaken by Private players is minimized.
• While traditional models such as Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and Build operate transfer (BOT) served their purposes in road construction newer models such as Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM) and Toll, Operate and Transfer (TOT) are being used extensively for road development.
• Adoption of Fastag has reduced toll collection time and enhanced swift movement of all kinds of vehicles on the highways.
• Bharatmala Pariyojana (2015)- It aimed at improved connectivity and a reliable high-speed road network, particularly throughout economic corridors, border regions, and remote locations

Advantages of Developed road infrastructure in India:
• Economic Growth: Road networks contribute more than 3.6 per cent of India’s GDP. They transport over 85 per cent of passenger traffic and 65 per cent of freight, playing a critical role in the growth of the Indian economy.
• Connectivity: National highways, which carry over 40 per cent of total traffic, are especially important for connecting different regions of the country.
• Efficient Movement: Road networks enable the efficient movement of resources and people between rural and urban areas, facilitating urbanization, access to essential services, and market integration.
•  Regional Development: Over time, regions far away from significant road connectivity will also develop following the development they witness along national highways.
• Employment opportunities- According to NHAI report, the construction of highways and expressways has created around 55,000 direct jobs and 1,00,000 indirect jobs per 1,000 kms of road construction.

Challenges in Road Infrastructure in India
• Lack of buffer lanes, low number of crash barriers, lack of scientific signage are some of the examples of these unsafe practices.
• Issues concerning Land acquisition causes significant delays in finishing road projects.
• Lack of use of Origin to Destination (OD) traffic flow data while planning the road development projects.
• Contractual issues between development authority and PPP players hinders the pace of road projects.
• Urban roads in India are not as good as the rural roads. In addition, there are coordination issues with urban public transport, heavy traffic congestion and limited parking spaces.
• India’s unsafe roads kill the maximum number of people in any country.

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